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Monday, May 29, 2017

Philopon - The Japanese War Drug

I'm sure it doesn't surprise too many people to know that governments around the world have experimented with giving their soldiers drugs in order to increase reaction times, alertness and even to stave of being tired or hungry.

Famously, the CIA was testing the hallucinogenic drug LSD in the 1950s and 60s, dosing hundreds of unsuspecting civilians and military personnel.

Japan, during WWII, had developed a form of methamphetamine that was issued to military personnel to stave off hunger and stay awake... under the brand name of Philopon (ヒロポン).

It was the war, and nobody was allowed to question anything.

Because of the era, nobody had really studied possible side-effects. It hits the brain and triggers waves of released dopamine and norepinephrine - and is highly addictive... but we know that now... and Japan kind of figured that out by the war's end.

It can also make the user hyper-sexual. Which may also explain the rash of violent sex crimes going on in Japan following WWII... on it's own soil..... returning military personnel and all that.

Created by a Dr. Muira for the Dainippon Pharmaceutical Company (nowadays it is Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma) and given out to the military starting in 1941, Philopon got its name from the Greek philo (love) and ponos (labor).

That's why the drug has a name that can't be properly pronounced by its Japanese population.

Factory workers helping keep the war machine rolling took Philopon to ward of hunger. Soldiers used it as a means to keep on soldiering when they got tired...


Let's not judge too harshly, the American soldiers got Benedrine (it allows the body to release adrenaline into the system)...

But... when the war was over, Japan had an incredible reserve of the stuff... and because it was addictive, many a Japanese soldier came back needing a fix... so it was sold to them... and sold to the populace... and it wasn't that expensive... which is good because most people in Japan were dirt poor, starving and out of work.

The next thing you know, there's a lot of people in Japan addicted to the stuff - upwards of around 1.5 million... but I suspect that number is just representative of how many people tried it at least once.

Police estimates in 1954 peg the number of addicts at around 550,000.

It took Japan until 1951 to ban production of the drug, but that just puts everything underground with more production than ever before.

Japan, via its police in 1954, began blaming the rash of illegal Philopon drug production on the Koreans--because it's never the Japanese fault.

Anyhow, the police began a major crackdown (ha-ha) on the drug peddlers and with 55,664 arrests in 1954... at its peak all the way down to 271 in 1958... which means they either weren't getting the job done or they were successful in halting illegal use.

This isn't to say that the Japanese weren't still taking a version of philopon after 1958, but it was no longer an epidemic.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Anatomy Of A Japanese Serial Rapist & Murderer

There’s a true refrain amongst wartime military personnel that states unequivocally that “War is Hell.”

Unfortunately, from what I can tell, every single country’s military has people in it that seem to make that statement a truism more often than the actual war’s battles and hardships make it.

I’m talking about those individuals who circumvent the spirit of battle and rather than concentrate their ire on the enemy state’s military take things to another level by raining hell upon the civilian population.

One such “person” was Kodaira Yoshio (小平 義雄, surname first), a Tochigi-shi (Tochigi City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) Japanese man who raped and killed a lot of women.

Born on January 28, 1905, Kodaira joined Japan’s Imperial Navy in 1923 at the age of 18, apparently to avoid his parental obligations to the unwed mother of his child. 

He was part of Japan’s activities in war time activities in China, and is known to be one of the few Japanese people to have actually stated that Japan had committed atrocities in China before the actual beginning of the Second Sino (China)-Japanese War that began in July 7, 1937, culminating in Japan’s defeat at the end of WWII on September 9, 1945.

For Japan and China… WWII actually began 2+ years earlier than in Europe… and 4+ years earlier than for the U.S.

While in China, Kodaira says he killed six (6) Chinese soldiers in 1928… but soldiers… so I suppose that’s kosher.

However, while dates and actual numbers of victims aren’t available, Kodaira did admit to multiple rapes of Chinese civilian women while there…

Like a lot of Japanese military men stationed in China, Kodaira frequented brothels - the cheap ones... which may have tickled his sexual urges...

Kodaira confessed that in 1927 he once accompanied four to five of his Navy cohorts when at a place known as in Taku Forts (aka Dagu Forts, also called the Peiho Forts - forts located by the Hai River estuary, in Tanggu District, Tianjin municipality, in northeastern China), where they broke into the home of a Chinese family, tying up and locking the father in a closet before stealing jewelry and raping the women. 

As part of this gang, they (or Kodaira himself, according to some website versions) plunged a bayonet into the belly of a pregnant woman and pulled the fetus out of her.

While Kodaira actually did that or not, he does admit to being there and actually partaking of the activities that evening. 

Kodaira himself admitted that he did a lot of unspeakable things while in China… but since it was against Chinese women, no one really gave a crap. Again… the number of women he raped, and the number killed is known only to him.

He did receive a medal from the Imperial Navy for his service in China... whatever that means.

After returning back to Japan in 1932, Kodaira married a woman… the daughter of a Shinto priest… who didn’t like Kodaira… but the two were wed over his objections… but after his wife left him to move back home with her father because he had a child by another woman, Kodaira went on a rampage against her disloyalty to him.

No… the irony was lost on him that his fathering a child by another woman was the disloyal action… so he went to her father’s house on July 2, 1932, attacked and killed her father with an iron rod, and hurt six others.

He was arrested, and sentenced to 15-years of hard labor. But, thanks to a general amnesty of 1940, he was released, working as a civilian at a naval facility in Tokyo.

As you might expect during war when most of the young men were out fighting the Chinese, many of his co-workers were women… and being a sick bugger, he would go and spy on them when they took a bath after work.

He took things to that inevitable next level on May 25-1945 when he raped and strangled to death one of his female co-workers: Miyazaki Mitsuko (surname first), who was just 19-years-old. He placed her lifeless body behind an air-raid shelter on the naval facility.

It was 1945… May… Japan was badly losing the war—only a matter of time—so even though the police were looking for the missing young woman, no one found her until much later.

Success at raping and murdering a woman and not getting caught only fueled Kodaira’s lust to do it again.

On June 22, 1945, Kodaira raped and strangled 30-year-old Ishikawa Yori (surname first).

Speeding up his timetable, Kodaira raped and strangled:
  • Nakamura Mitsuko, 32 – July 12, 1945;
  • Kazuko Kondo, 22 – July 15, 1945;
  • Matsushita Yoshe, 21 – September 28, 1945;
  • Shinokawa Tatsue, 17 – October 31, 1945;
  • Baba Hiroko, 19 – December 30, 1945.

One of Kodaira's victims being examined by 1946 Japan's version of a CSI (crime scene investigation).
There is evidence (perhaps confession), that Kodaira was a necrophiliac with victim No. 5... Matsushita Yoshe (IE, he had sex with her after she had been murdered).

With the early victims being raped and murdered in shorter and shorter time gaps, the fact that Kodaira did not commit a violent act between July 15 and September 28 seems highly unlikely to me.

I’m sure he did, but either he didn’t admit to them later or he simply lost count… but if he continued to commit his crimes in late September after Japan’s surrender, he surely wasn’t concerned about committing them in July-September….

His next victim – known victim – was Abe Yoshiko, 15 – on June 30, 1946.


Midorikawa Ryuko, 17 – August 6, 1946…

Kodaira’s plan after the war had ended was to lure women by promising to help them get food from the illegal black markets that had popped up all over Japan, including in multiple locations in Tokyo.

With young Midorikawa, Kodaira struck up a friendship and stupidly met her parents and gave his real name.

Then Midorikawa disappeared on August 6, 1946 after supposedly going to a job interview – her body found a few days later at Zoioji Temple in Tokyo… with another body found nearby eventually identified as Shinokawa Tatsue… well, the police started looking for Kodaira as a person of interest after talking with Midorikawa’s parents.

Talked to by the police Kodaira freely confessed to all his crimes, and was eventually sentenced to death on August 20, 1947.

He also confessed to 30+ rapes – the victims survived his attacks.

Before his trial, however, he said that three of the 10 victims he was charged with he did not murder… so the court only brought charges of seven murders against him.

On October 5, 1949, Kodaira was hanged for his crimes at Miyagi Prison.

Apparently just before being executed Kodaira calmly smoked a cigarette.

Some people claim that Kodaira was a product of his time spent in the military – but if that was 100% true then everyone in the Japanese military in China would have been raping and murdering women when they got home.

No… Kodaira always had something wrong inside him.

It might be correct, however, to state that his murderous rages and sexual appetite towards women may have been awakened while he was in China and part of the military that seemed to not be too concerned about his actions… but to be certain, I would have to have been a psychiatrist who interviewed him… a psychiatrist with 2017 knowledge of mental illness.

But certainly one could assume that the Japanese was culpable in not curtailing Kodaira… and that Japan’s prison system of granting a murderer amnesty in 1940 was also to blame. Or that he never received adequate rehabilitation while he was in prison for murdering his wife’s father and beating her family.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Being Used For Free Sexy English Lessons

Woe is the gaijin in Japan. Pshaw... right.

A gaijin is a word used to denote an outsider… a foreigner… and for whatever reason, gaijin all over Japan seem to get upset when a Japanese person shouts the term out loud:

Hora! Gaijin-da!”… or “Look! A gaijin!”

What’s the big deal… don’t like being pointed out you are different?

Some of us have that happen all the time…

Of course, I get it… why the heck are the Japanese so surprised when they see a gaijin?

We’re all over the damn place, and we’re sleeping with your women.

Maybe that “Hora! Gaijin-da!” is less shock and more of a grapevine warning for concerned fathers to lock-up their of-legal-age-daughters?

Granted… I am no longer 25-years-old with zero perspective on Japan, but back then, a simple guy who had never slept with a woman before in Canada now found himself inundated with Japanese women literally throwing themselves at me for free English lessons… which is actually a term for “free English lessons” as well as a means to an end for “sex”.

The two don’t go hand-in-hand, but it does really depend on the locale.

I spent a fair bit of my free evening time sitting quietly by myself in a local bar - a very classy bar called the 4C in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. I don’t believe it exists anymore.

I did go to the place in my fist year in Japan… but usually with other gaijin, like my buddy Matthew and my girlfriend Ashley.  But in year two… with Ash and I reduced to simply being friends with benefits (I know, I know… lucky girl)… well, when I wasn’t tying up Junko—the young woman who dropped out of university so she could follow me around like I was the Grateful Dead shuffling off to Buffalo.  

Anyhow… I’d sit at a bar table with two stools… one for me, and one for whomever.

I didn’t have to wait long… but some local cutie would shyly come over and strike up a conversation.  Like a yakuza boss, I’d grunt a smile and nod at the chair while slightly bowing offering a low rumble “dozo (please)”.

I don’t know if I have a type… but in Japan I was constantly hit on by dark-haired women with brown eyes… Asian women… which is weird, because I don’t have a type… or if I do, it’s kind of the opposite.

They would strike up a conversation in slow English as though I didn’t understand the language… but I can assure you I can wrap my tongue around all the alphabets…

I would reply in equally slow English… just in case…

Sometimes the cutie really was looking for a free English lesson and a story to tell her friends that she just talked to a foreigner… no, not that sukebe tall one, but the tall, dark and very handsome one from Canada.

But… despite being virginal before arriving in Japan, I had approached double digits after my first year, and was well along the path of righteousness (I may be using that word incorrectly) in my second and third years.

Yes… a virgin…  and not by choice… I’m pretty sure I made a lot of copies of Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler a lot heavier than when originally printed… but I am a university and college grad… a newspaper guy (a very well-respected occupation in Japan)… a pretty funny guy (also much admired in Japan)… had really long hair (a rebel, much admired by some and shunned by older people)… always had a smile on my face (friendly… which is actually well-respected by all decent people on the planet)… and at the time in reasonably good shape. I also dressed in color, was taller than the average Japanese… and for whatever reason the women thought that I was open enough to approach.

Of the 30+ I slept with in Japan, I only ever asked out one women. Familiar readers know who that is.

So… the bar… yes… sometimes a casual chat is indeed a casual chat and yes, it ends up being a free English lesson.

Oh yeah… I’m an introvert pretending to be an extrovert, so being along at a semi-busy bar is fine by me. Alone, I tend to drink more… so that’s good for the bar… but providing a free English lesson… no big deal.

Except… it means no nookie for Andrew.

Then there’s the cutie who when she sits pulls the stool right close to me… smart and to the point. I know what type of English lesson she wants and play a different version of myself that is only slightly more aggressive with a hand on a hand, then on a thigh… a lean into whisper something in the ear: “ikimasho (let’s go)” and gulp my drink as I lead her by the hand back to my place.

But that was easy and only happened once or twice.

Usually the cutie sits opposite me… and the slow English game is afoot.

As a virgin, sometimes you can only masturbate so much… sometimes you actually read the articles with two hands.

As such, I’ve enjoyed many an article in Playboy and Penthouse… and learned all about signs women drop to indicate that they are into you.

I’m not going to detail that stuff here, except for the classic hair play.

A nervous little thing such as playing with her hair can be an indicator that she likes you… and now you have two plays… to let her know that you like her by being a bit more forward or by slowly playing the game…

The first way can spook her, or it may just be what she wants… sometimes people don’t care and immediately go for this route… but the key is truly to learn more about who you are with.

Sometimes a smiling question of “why did you come and talk to me?” You can even pantomime this question and she’ll know what you mean. I can… I assume you can, too.

A shy drop of the head, play with the hair, the biting of a lip (hers, not yours… if she’s biting your lip, proceed directly to Go), a smile… or anything more forward, and you know things are going well enough to be more forward.

But if you receive a vacant vapid stare… and a wakanai (I don’t know), it was a sexual hair twirl, it was a nervous what am I doing her hair twirl.

I’m no MMM, the sexsmith guru who used to write the How To Survive Women blog I used to showcase here occasionally… he stopped writing that a couple of years ago… but Mister Manfred Mann did seem to get around as much as I did… or did he?

He never actually talked much about his own sexploits.

Anyhow… I’m no sexpert… certainly not any more… if I ever was. But if I actually told you who I dated (based on profession), you’d might suppose I had some expertise.

I can only provide advice based on what worked for me.

Of course, the Japan of 2017 is certainly different from the turn of the century Japan.

It is said that young Japanese men and women aren’t interested in sex.

While the numbers and skewed media certainly seems to back up that contention, it’s not as bad as people think.

I bet if I went into a Japanese bar right effing now and pointed to a person and asked: Do you like sex?

They would say yes.

Now... I'm a guy with a big booming voice... but to be fair, I ain't no living version of Michelangelo's David, either. 

Point to another… they would say yes… I’d say I like sex, too! That would get a giggle and and a rise.

Be fair… ask a man, hey - do you like sex? He’d scream yes. High five!

You aren't asking him to have sex with you... you are asking if he likes sex. 

This is you being the life of the party. 

Ask another guy - same thing!

I bet that there would be one or two who would say they don’t like sex… but out of 40 people in a bar, I would bet 38 would say they like sex.

Even supposing the gender numbers are equal, we have 19 women and 19 men. I’m not into the guys, so 19 women. Assume three… heck… assume said they don’t like sex… that leaves you with 13 women who said they do.

You only need one—two if you want to feel unnecessary for an hour—so 1:13. Odds such, right?

Nope… you already know they all like sex… know you just have to figure out who likes it enough to want to have it with you.

By the way… you can’t be yelling out “Who likes sex?” at just any place. I wouldn’t have done that at the 4C… it was a classy little place… but at the Java Jive in Roppongi - yeah! Certainly not at a Denny’s… use your brain before you get inebriated.

Now… I did not spend all my evenings in Japan going to bars and being picked up by women. Weekends, sure… curfews are later for the women.

I certainly never attempted a “Do you like sex?” shouted questionnaire in a bar. But I figure… WTF do you have to lose?

I have no idea why everyone is effin’ coy about things. Why are you at the bar? Have drinks with your friends? Okay. To meet someone and get married? Okay - but at a bar? To meet someone and have some safe fun for the evening - okay.

Yes, there are safety concerns… who’s a freak… who’s a murderer… who likes Justin Bieber… condoms, STDs… this is where common sense comes into play…

I can only get you to the front door with the door open a crack.

Letting people in, or choosing to go in is up to the individual.

I was, quite literally letting my hair down in the 1990s… a 10-year run… and I sometimes wonder why I am alive, incident-free and sexually healthy. Condoms. Not 100% effective, but I liked the odds.

My point is, free English lessons can be sought out from you, or they can be offered.

This blog was inspired in part by an old article in The Rising Wasabi, a satirical look at Japan and its news.

The article can be found HERE.

I commented to reader Vincent that it’s funny because it was true… and it was.

Being a (male) gaijin in Japan is an advantage when it comes to seeking the attention of the opposite sex. Even in 2017.

My simple ploy above will prove that.    

Andrew Joseph

Friday, May 26, 2017

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

One of the more interesting things I have learned about WWII, was in regards to the atomic bomb(s).

Number one: the U.S. dropped two atomic/nuclear bombs on Japan, but had a third primed and ready for use had Japan not surrendered… with material to make other such weaponry for use against Japan.

Number 2: Lots of people died from the blasts, as well as from subsequent radiation poisoning making it difficult to get an accurate number… and still… the firebombings of Tokyo before the atomic blasts, actually caused more Japanese fatalities… spread out over a longer period…

Number 3: the Allies really did need to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.

I never used to believe that anyone needed to drop such a weapon… but after writing these blogs and thus researching more and more into the war and specifically into the mindset of the Japanese, I eventually came (past tense) to the conclusion that it was warranted… and actually saved more lives than it cost.

When I applied to the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme back in the early months of 1990, I had an interview with the Japanese Consulate in Toronto.

They asked me why I wanted to go to Japan.

Truthfully, I didn’t want to go to Japan… I had only applied because a girl I liked in journalism school was going to apply—and wouldn’t it be nice if we went together?

I was naive about how the JET Programme worked… or how women in Toronto perceived this then still-virginal 25-year-old… and was only mildly surprised when I got an interview and she didn’t.

What the hey… I went to the interview not expecting to go any farther, wanting to be accepted, but wanting to turn them down, as I was just beginning my career as a newspaper journalist.

I had also been accepted into the prestigious Toronto Star Summer Internship Program - again, she wanted to try for it, so I said “what the heck” and applied also. Me in, she no.

While I never stood a chance at actually dating her before, I sure as heck didn’t after getting into both her dream jobs.

Her dream jobs… not mine.

As such, when the consulate official asked me that question about why I wanted to go to Japan—a surprise question by the way—I spouted some naive line about how I had always had an interest in WWII… and since history books are always written by the winners, I wanted to go to Japan to talk to the people there to get a real and true response about what things were like.

The consulate official said that was interesting but didn’t think I would have much luck because the Japanese people weren’t all that comfortable in talking about that period of history.

Fair enough…

I know it’s a painful subject, I replied, but I don’t want to point fingers at any one or judge them… I just want to know their thoughts and feelings.

He ground his lower jaw upwards as if pondering deep in thought, nodded and stood up to shake my hand, wish me luck and say good bye.

Again… I was naive.

I had not read a thing on Japan - except for what I knew about Japan during WWII (not much), saw in Godzilla and Gamera movies, and fully expected there were ninja and geisha everywhere.

In other words… dick all.

I didn’t know that the Japanese didn’t like talking about themselves… preferring to talk about their own particular group dynamic…

But I did learn - once in Japan - that people in Japan will talk to you about anything if you get alcohol involved.

Actually… that’s not quite true. While it’s true that alcohol as conversation lubrication was a good way to loosen lips, sometimes showing a real interest in things-Japanese will cause the locals to talk… and to actually stop to ponder just what THEY THEMSELVES think about a subject - any subject.

Why? Because that Japanese really don’t talk much about personal things with one another…

Now… this is not a 100% true fact. People and friends do talk.

More often, Japanese friendships are limited to within the school chums they had growing up, and with their co-workers…

You know… kind of like how things are now in Canada or the U.S… or wherever.

Yeah, we do make friends outside those institutions… but not as many or as often as we think we do.

Because of work constraints—IE previously doing stupid amounts of unpaid overtime or simply working late all the time—the average Japanese person doesn’t have a lot of free time to go out and make new friends or find new friends…   

Anyhow… I had absolutely no trouble at all in getting Japanese people around me to open up.

It might be a gift I have cultivated, it might simply be me having the guts to ask nosy questions… but I always got a thoughtful response from whomever I was questioning.

Asking “Why” is key.

It makes a body ponder… and me being me, it didn’t seem like they wanted to disappoint me with a typical “wakanai (I don’t know)” blanket statement.

If I got one… I would ask again: Naze (nah-zay)? “Why?”

Then as now, I didn’t care to associate with stupid people. Even the funniest, nicest guy on the planet who always wanted to talk about women and sex with me would bore me.

I can talk about those topic until the cows come home, but dammit, I also want to talk about 100s and 1000s of other things.

To quote Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit): I feel stupid and contagious, Here we are now, entertain us.

So… anyways… after talking to the average elder Japanese person who had either fought in or been around during WWII, I learned that to a tee they didn’t like war, but were told that they had to do their duty and fight for the Emperor and Japan (IE God and country).

Those who were kids during the war told me how they were always informed that Japan was winning the war… winning every battle… but recall how they would be drilled in how to use a bamboo stick as a weapon to repel possible Japanese enemies.

None seemed to question why such a weapon would be required if the Japanese were winning how could the enemy land on the island…

What I didn’t get… and that’s my fault for not knowing that I should have pushed further, was that the Japanese had a never say die attitude… no… that’s wrong…

I knew all about the kamikaze - the divine wind - pilots who would crash a single bomb-laden aircraft into enemy ships in a a suicide mission… and I knew that it was just desperation…

But no… it was all about dying for God and Country. Dying a noble death.

There is a cenotaph in downtown Toronto that memorializes “Our Glorious Dead” who died during various wars.

While I respect their efforts, I had always scoffed - even as a young child - that there was nothing glorious in being dead.

I know, I know… sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…

But, what I learned only very recently, was that the Japanese in WWII were perfectly willing to die before surrender, because a long-standing samurai code compels the warrior to live their life by following: Death before dishonor.

In the case of WWII, dishonor is from losing a battle or war, but also that death is preferable than surrendering to an enemy who would torture, rape, kill and rape again. I exaggerate, but really… surrender was for the weak… the coward… and is not the Japanese way.

The Americans either realized that or figured it out… Japan would never surrender, and would fight tooth and nail down to the last old man, woman and child to defend their sacred land from the heathen Allies.

So… for the Americans and Aussies who were leading the attack on Japan… and had had seen first-hand the fierceness of the Japanese soldier who would rather die than surrender as each island near Japan was re-taken… a war… a land war in Japan was going to cost a lot of Allied lives, as well as a lot of Japanese lives.

So Hiroshima was the lucky (sarcasm) city to get the first atomic weapon used on it…

Keep in mind that it was dropped on August 6, 1945.

A high estimate says 140,000 people died, including 20,000 soldiers.

The place was on fire… bodies evaporated… carbon imprints of bodies sand-blasted into walls and roads…  radiation burns, fires, most of the city destroyed…

Japan did not surrender. It knew it was bad, but chose not to tell its populace just how bad.

So the Americans dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945…

It is (high) estimated that another 80,000 people died…

Again… Japan did not surrender.

A third atomic bomb was prepared… but…

… finally, Japan surrendered on August 15… six days after the destruction of Nagasaki.

It’s like Japan didn’t care about how many people died and how it was now fighting a lost cause… all that mattered was that it never surrender and thus lose “face”.

Only the Emperor had enough sense to go against the will of the country’s military… the ones who had wanted a war… who had essentially claimed the war in the name and honor of the Emperor… they were angry and disappointed in the “god” leader…

Death before dishonor.

That is the Bushido… a warrior code known as the “Way of the Samurai”… a code so steeped in honor that the U.S. Marines adopted it as their motto…

So… yeah… Japan didn’t even want to surrender even though it had been twice bombed by atomic/nuclear weaponry…

Imagine if the U.S. hadn’t dropped the bombs? Imagine if they had to lead ground troops into Japan to hunt down and stop every single enemy… which in this case was every single person in Japan capable of holding a weapon…

That’s why the bomb(s) had to be dropped on Japan.

It’s not that Allied lives were more valuable than Japanese lives… because Japan would have sacrificed the life of every person if the emperor hadn’t intervened… it’s simply that the dropping of two atomic/nuclear bombs eventually saved more lives than it took.

I’m sure revisionists will say that radiation poisoning and cancers many years in the future were horrific and painful… no argument… but… this was a country ready to kill itself to maintain its honor…

Andrew Joseph
PS: Today's title is the sub-title of the 1964 dark comedy Dr. Strangelove. If you have never seen it - you owe it to yourself to watch, learn and be amused.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Nishi Honganji In Kyoto - Amended

I have no idea why I only have one image from Nishi Honganji, but I suspect it was because it was late in the evening and the place was closing… or because we had already seen Higashi Honganji… and so… big whoop. 

That latter type of thinking, however, is dangerous.

For one thing… Nishi Honganji is much older than Higashi Honganji, with more original buildings… which works two ways… yes, original wooden architectural constructs… and boring non-colorful original wooden architectural constructs.

Pick your poison.


Nishi Hongan-ji (西本願寺)  is, in English, the Western Temple of the Original Vow.

I wonder if people in Asia hear the names of western churches and think they are as cool as how we think the Asian ones are, like Nishi Honganji? Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Perpetucal Motion… I went to school at Our Lady of Peace and Our Lady of the Airways which I’m pretty sure wasn’t covered in any Bible I ever read…  

So… for those of you following along, Trish and I are on vacation in Kyoto in 1992, and have already visited Higashi Honganji (the Easten Temple of the Original Vow).

These are the two temples of Jōdo Shinshū in Kyoto, Japan.

Jōdo Shinshū (浄土真宗) is a school of Pure Land Buddhism… or Shin Buddhism.  The name means The True Essence of the Pure Land Teaching…

Anyhow… with Higashi Honganji known affectionately as Mr. east, our current locale is known as Mr. West.

As mentioned in a previous blog, when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu was more or less in complete charge of Japan, he was smart enough to try and weaken the church, which has long been a source of power amongst every community around the world (Pope, witch doctors, shaman, Joe Smith - as examples only and not meant to disrespect anyone).

Even though Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion—we all get that, right?—it still wielded considerable “religious” might in its ability to sway the devout masses.

As such, the shogun split the original Honganji temple in Kyoto into two separate entities.

The very impressive gate that leads into Nishi Honganji is typically called a Karamon (唐門), and was designated as a National Treasure of Japan… 

The photo is of a detail taken from the side of a bell placed on display.

It shows a komainu (a guardian “Korean” lion dog. The image in the photo is only about 4-inches long, but you can see I think such detail is awesome.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Happy Birthday Matthew

Let’s take a break from seeing the travels of Trish and myself to Kyoto all those many years ago when we were on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, and instead take a look at my buddy Matthew who celebrates his… well… celebrates his birthday today.

Without a doubt, Matthew is genuinely one of the nicest people on the planet.

I met him in very late July of 1990 as we both were in Tokyo as part of the JET orientation for newbies. He was from a small place in New York state, and I came from the suburbs of Toronto.

Right away, he and I hit it off.

This gangling strawberry blond damn Yankee and by-chance Canucklehead of Indian decent struck up an immediate bond that lasts to this day and for what I assume will be a long time after.

While big brother Tom wanted me to really rub in his continued age accumulation, I can’t really do that here on-line. Sorry.

We have come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him.

That first evening in Tokyo, Matthew, myself, Californian Jeff and unbeknownst to myself Georgian Ashley sat down in a Japanese restaurant and were in awe at ourselves for actually being where we were.

We laughed our butts off as a drunk Jeff staggered off to use the washroom, and instead stepped in the porcelain bowl planted down within the floor… yeah, I don’t if Matthew would have done that, but thank goodness Jeff took that one giant leap for mankind and Andrew… luckily I have the bladder of an elephant.

It’s also true that I had no idea what Ashley’s name was that evening despite us making out like drunk bandits in Roppongi - Tokyo’s club district. I also admit that once Ashley took my hand to lead me into the place, I lost track of Jeff and Matthew. Sorry, guys… a real woman just showed interest in me.

After surviving the three days in Tokyo, we were taken to Utsunomiya, the capital city of Tochigi-ken, and were then divvied up and taken to our new homes in the prefecture by our bosses.

Arriving at my home in Ohtawara, and storing my stuff in my huge 3-bedroom apartment, with western amenities spread over the LDK (living room-dining room-kitchen), including the westernized bathroom and laundry area, my bosses took me downstairs to grab a bite to eat.

Sitting in the restaurant looking with intent at this strange language called Japanese printed on the menu, I hear a voice from behind me:

“Hey gaijin (outsider/foreigner).”

I turned around to see who the rude Japanese person was, and caught the smiling visage of Matthew!

I had no idea, but Matthew did, that we would be living nearby each other in this rural city of Ohtawara-shi… and that while I would teach at the junior high schools (then only seven) in the city, Matthew would have the more rural ones outside the city.


I know someone in my new hometown!

My joy soon turned to disgust as that bugger kept showing up at my place with beer, meaning I had to feed him. LOL!

It was a fair exchange.

Matthew already knew more Japanese than I did upon landing in the country, and it only got worse, I mean better with each ensuing day, as soon he was talking to me in Japanese phrases that he assumed I must have picked up.

Most often, that first three years, I would smile and nod my head like I knew exactly what he was saying. But I didn’t. Which is probably why he was always at my apartment or showing up at the local bar—The 4-C—when I was trying to get Ashley toasty drunk.

I’m kidding of course.

Matthew was always a welcome guest. He was the one who had the adventurous spirit (probably more than Ashley), and definitely more than me at (at least until my third year when I did try and do things like travel alone through Ohtawara).

(My initial experience involved a three-hour tour in the rice fields of Ohtawara, as I tried to fin Ashley’s apartment in the town next door. Keep in mind that there are no street signs, and even if there were, I’d have no concept of what they said. I was lost almost the minute I left my apartment, and only got lucky when a man stopped his truck to take me and my bicycle to the local police station where they called my parents, er Board of Education bosses to come and pick me up and take me home).

Matthew’s kindness at always trying to include me in things was legendary in my mind. I was a shy guy… and introvert pretending to be an extrovert… I know it doesn’t seem like it now (or then), but it’s true.

He hauled me out to local singing events, the Ohtawara International Friendship Society/Association, rode with me by train, bicycle and bus to area JET teaching gigs and speech contests, ordered food for me whenever I stumbled (pretty much usually)…

Strangely, we never traveled on a vacation together… probably because too much familiarity could bring contempt… or he was already aware that I snored like a jet plane with asthma… or he knew that whenever I traveled outside of Ohtawara, it rained. Always.

It was Matthew who named me Ame Otoko (Rain Man) and joked that JET should send me around Japan to places needing relief from a drought. I remember almost everything. 

Aside from the obvious AJ, that was the first nickname I ever had. AJ is hardly a nickname… it was a way for people to initially recall the order of my names. Probably. I don’t.

We dragged me out to celebrate Canada's birthday and America's day of independence, finding fireworks - setting them off and nearly having one shoot right at us... each of us swiping a flag from a park where they were celebrating some community event... at least I did... a Canadian flag that was too high for me to reach... but not Matthew. He enabled me.

He also got me into some Ohtawara cooking class that we would each teach... he explaining how to make Ice Cream Cake, and me my famous Chilli con carne... a dish that had helped keep the stomach's of Matthew, Ashley and myself sated.

I would cook it once a week... and somehow... word got out... so he were paid to teach the local women of Ohtawara how to make our respective dishes.

We got paid. That makes us professional chefs. Semi-professional cooks at any rate.

If there's one great thing you can say about Matthew when he came over for a free meal—he always brought beer. I got other things from Ashley.

Speaking of women and alcohol...

Matthew... most importantly, picked me up when I was down. Which I’m not proud to say, was often. The one thing that ever got me down while I was in Japan, were women.




I was so unsure of my own self, filled with doubt and self-loathing, that every time Ashley and I broke up or had a fight, Matthew was right there to make sure I didn’t fall into that pit of despair.

I would never have done anything to myself, mind you—but Matthew didn’t know that.

He looked after me.

This guy younger than myself, was like the big brother I never had… a true friend.

And so… I just wanted to say… thank-you (again) Matthew for being my friend all these years.

Oh… and for almost killing me by introducing me to the most intoxicating alcoholic drink I have ever had: the Flaming Blue Lamborghini.

A Flaming Blue Lamborghini was the drink of choice whenever I wanted to get blitzed. One drink would get you drunk. Two drinks will get me really hammered. And three - well, according to New Zealand dude Mark the bartender - no one has ever had three.

Challenge accepted I had three in one evening after working my way up to it for the weeks previous. It was messy. I was fall-down drunk… probably should have eaten that evening.

Here's a recipe for the drink: Flaming Blue Lamborghini- please note that there are many different recipes for this drink (I spotted several)...

1/2 ounce of Kahlua;
1/2 ounce of Blue Caracao;
1/2 ounce of Galliano;
1/2 ounce of white Sambuca;

Layer the Kahlua and Galliano in a martini glass. Pour the Sambuca into a shot glass and light it on fire. Pour the flaming Sambuca into the drink (ooooohhh ahhhhh pretty blue fire. Yay!) and throw a pinch of cinnamon over it for the crackling fireball effect. Douse the flames with cream and drink.

This is just one of several recipes on the Internet. I believe that Mark would use ice and Cream, puree it with the Kaluha and Galliano and then pour it with the Sambuca into a martini glass.

Instead of setting the Sambuca on fire, Mark used Spiritus vodka - a Polish vodka that is 95% proof - this was atop the other alcohol in the drink and it was all set on fire. While Mark them poured in the Blue Caracao, I would would be sucking the drink back with a straw - while the drink was still on fire. Many a time I recall searing my throat with fire, but the discomfort went away quickly as the alcoholic affects quickly hit me.

Oh... no cinnamon was harmed in the making of my drink... meaning none was used.

Anyhow… there was Matthew helping - practically carry my drunken a$$ back the five minute walk (now a 47-minute stagger) back to my condo.

As for women… that bugger lucked out… or is it lucked in? I don’t know how that stupid saying goes.

While I had the girlfriend first, Matthew got himself a Japanese girlfriend first (and second and third) and then got married.

Matthew was my gold standard… I wanted to be like him… to find that true love and trap it and force it to marry you. I’m kidding about the choice of words, but not the sentiment.

What Matthew had with Takako, that’s what I wanted with Noboko.

While it was never a contest between us—at least none that he knew existed , I always felt that I lost and Matthew won.

Nowadays, I just feel like Matthew won.

So yeah, baby… thanks for making me feel inferior for those three years, ya bastich.

Happy Hawaii XX, Matthew!

See… I could have said how old he is, but I didn’t.

For the record... after knowing Matthew for almost 27 years now, I’m still older. I guess I win.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kyoto-gosho Imperial Palace

Next up on the adventures of Trish and Andrew in Kyoto, is us visiting the Kyoto-gosho (the Kyoto Imperial Palace, 京都御所).

This is where the emperors of Japan used to live... until the Meiji Restoration of 1867, and when the emperors moved to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in 1869.

This was when the official power of the emperor was shifted from Kyoto to Tokyo.

When was the Kyoto-gosho first built? Your guess is as good as mine. The closest I can determine is sometime in the Heian-jidai (Heian era) of 794-1185AD. It was supposedly constructed on the same design as the palace located in the previous seat of power in Nara. 

When the first Kyoto-gosho was destroyed in the 1100s, it was rebuilt... destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed... but always moving to new locales around Kyoto... until this one was built in 1855... then the emperor left and forgot to take it with him. 

Located within what is now Kyoto Imperial Park (京都御苑, Kyōto Gyoen), a park pretty much in the middle of Tokyo, the two effervescent travelers from Tochigi-ken took in the sights.

I'm pretty sure that the past few years of my life have been less than effervescent, but back in 1992 when I took this trip, I was pretty genki (energetic)... more so because I was with Trish who was the same.

Although, if she were to allow me to sleep in until noon, I would, because I can be incredibly lazy or fully functional on a little sleep.

The current Kyoto-gosho was only built in 1855, reconstructed after a fire had burned it down. Even then, it had moved from place to place over the centuries, even previously being in a place called Nara.

Despite the emperor moving to Tokyo (formerly Edo in the pre-1868 era) , when it came time for the  coronation of the next two emperors (Taisho and Showa), they held the enthronement ceremonies back in Kyoto... though with ascension of the current emperor in 1990, and all future coronations, the Tokyo Imperial Palace is the place.

While once tourists could only visit the Kyoto-gosho on guided tours and with advance reservations, people can now just show up and take a look around the grounds - though no one is allowed to enter any of the building.

Yeah, English tours are available, and though I was loathe to ever think such things, the fluent-in-Japanese Trish was my tour guide.

I have to admit that while I am a huge fan of Japanese architecture, the Kyoto-gosho was underwhelming...

Sure they were fantastically old compared to anything I had seen in Toronto (but not Quebec City), knowing that the buildings were only 130+years-old was a bit of a let-down.

Even in my tiny, rural hometown of Ohtawara-shi in Tochigi-ken, I visited the home of my Board of Education superintendent... a lovely 450-year-old place that was as clean and neat as a museum, but used everyday by my boss and family.

Anyhow... to me, the faded vermilion-like color of the buildings made me think it resembled Chinese temples too much - not that there's anything wrong with that in China... but this was Japan. I wanted red.

As such, when I looked at the architecture, all I saw was red, as in China and vermilion.

Then again, my own knowledge of colors while decent, was off. The architecture at the Kyoto-gosho was orange-y. Not vermilion. Hey... that's what I thought 25 years ago... and the fact that I still thought that way until I actually looked vermilion up on-line will tell you how my thinking had been skewed all these years.

I'll be honest... when I was taking photos, I didn't know exactly what was the main thing I should be shooting... so the main image at the top of this blog is one from wiki samurai archives. Yeah, I know it looks like it was going to rain in that above shot... but Trish and I had sunny skies to match our nauseatingly sunny dispositions.

So... here's some photos of the Kyoto-gosho grounds and architecture. We probably should have taken that tour...

Trish still found time to have some fun at this lonely set of swings on the palace grounds... I assume it was put in for the tourists and not for the emperor... though that would have been pretty cool, too.
I really like Japanese roofs... I know that sounds weird... but it's true.
A tour group of Japanese high school students.
Roofs... one above where I was shooting from, and the one I was shooting at.
Look at all the very different roofs! Fantastic! Eight different levels in this one shot!
The last shot of roof architecture for a while... but don't worry - there's more!
Roofs, sure! But look at that blue sky! Ame otoko (Rain man) no more!
Okay... I can see how I may have gone overboard with the roof-thing... no I can't! Exciting!
Hmm... Trish is doing her best "My Name Is Earl" routine with the camera. Eyes closed, that is. It was a very funny TV show. Every time Earl had his picture taken - he managed to have his eyes closed.
A boring shot? Naw. This is Kyoto... city of 1,000 temples... even though this is Kyoto-gosho, you are going to see the architecture. This shot incorporates my little trick of using a foreground overhang to frame the background image I am really shooting. Get used to it... I do it often.
Just some boring trees over a gate? Maybe... but that Japanese silver maple has brilliant red leaves... but do you see the rounded bridge in the background? I don't know if I saw it when I took the photo, but it surprised me just now.
Tomorrow... Nijo-jo. Plenty more shots of roofs and vegetation!

Andrew Joseph